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Posted Monday, December 8, 2008
We began the night with a short floor spot from Gerry Myerson. He performed Hand me Down My Walking Cane, which is an old American echoing song, and High Flyin' Bird, a traditional blues song. The second floor spot was from Ken McLean, a performer new to the Dog. He performed a song called "WoodenTune", which is a celebratory song of the power of life and the earth.
Kate Henshaw and Pete Doherty are the duo Lyrebird. In the time I have known these talented songwriters and performers I have seen them become more and more professional and competent. Their performance tonight was superb, with a range of instruments such as electric piano, guitar and recorder, and they were joined on some songs by bass guitarist Dan Freeman.
Both Alfie & Rainsong can be heard on their MySpace page.
They started the set with Alfie, where octogenarian Alfie reminisces on his past to a stranger - his father was a devil the kitchen and an angel on the street. They performed another original song about the Kelly gang, told by Ned's sister Kate. Next Kate sang a lovely, poignant traditional ballad about Queen Jane giving birth to King Henry VIII's baby. Her singing was wonderful and this sweet song suited her voice very well. They performed a favourite song of mine One of These Days in which Kate's clever recorder playing well and truly shines out. Rainsong captures the heartbreak of drought and the despairing hope for rain. Both Alfie & Rainsong can be heard on their MySpace page.
The Battle of Agincourt is Lyrebird's stirring war ballad where Kate used the recorder to make a wonderful simulation of battle pipes. She then performed it's companion piece, Twenty-four - a very poignant, finely crafted song about newly weds parted by war. They'd been married 24 days; he was 24 years old; 24 years later she sees her son, who had never known his father, debating whether to leave his wife & family and set off to war.
Robin Connaughton is a true raconteur. He told us stories of his time in the huge steelworks of Newcastle and Wollongong, and talked about the roots of the songs he had written and the history of some of the traditional songs he performed. He started his performance by singing some traditional folk songs from his past, in which he included a lovely sensitive version of Blues Run the Game and a David Campbell song of Clancy of the Overflow's days as a drover. He also sang a Brad Tate song of a rambling comber.
Robin recited a poem telling of the skills of the workers who actually worked the steel. We were given the chance to join in a great chorus song about the women who worked in the press shop when the men had gone to war, and wouldn't return to their kitchens when they returned. We all know the dangers of the winding Mount Ousley road. Robin sang a song telling of the men who truck the steel down that road and their fear of brake failure. He also recited a great narrative verse about the death of the Scottish steelworker Georgie Bell, who fell into a vat of hot steel and the dubious outcome of ending up as a piece of fencing wire. "The Booze Fairy" is the song about a man who sells sly grog to the men who come off shift at the steelworks when the pubs have already closed.
Robin finished by calling up a few of his fellow Roaring Forties members to lead some chorus songs. Firstly Don Brian led his own interpretation of the story of Waltzing Matilda which links the fate of Samuel Hoffmeister to the frustration of the squatters who were angry at the growing might of the shearers' union. Then Robin sang the resounding Stormalong from the Forties' new CD Life of Brine.
recount in song the lives of ordinary people
From love and war to songs of hard working men in the noisy, boiling steelworks of Newcastle and Wollongong, the themes of the songs that were performed this time at the Dog were many and varied. The ability of singer/songwriters like Lyrebird and Robin Connaughton to be able to recount in song the lives of ordinary people and turn them into something special is a wonderful gift.